Saudi Arabia Under Pressure as the “Oil Market Goes Green”

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Oil prices renewed their decline, maintaining the bearish tone set on Monday. US producers are gradually resuming oil production in the Gulf of Mexico after Hurricane Barry, in what serves as the basis for downbeat expectations for API and EIA inventory updates this week.

The rebound of Chinese economy in June, particularly in industrial production and retail sales, left a light imprint of buying activity in oil prices on Monday. However, it failed to gain a foothold, as the forecast for global economic growth (and therefore oil consumption) remains flimsy. This is further evidenced by the dovish stance of the ECB and Fed, ready to combat recession, while American oil producers are ramping up production, maintaining concerns about the glut.

On January 1, 2020, the International Maritime Organization will enforce new standards for ship fuel, designed to significantly reduce emissions of harmful gases into the atmosphere. This will be one of the biggest shifts in the oil market, as ships burn about 3 million barrels of high sulfur oil every day. These new standards will obviously create an excess of “dirty” fuels on the market and increased demand for standards-compliant fuels.

The allowable sulphur content is planned to be reduced from the current 3.5% to 0.5%. The average sulfur concentration now stands at 2.7% with a very low percentage of ships currently sticking to the new emission norms. The profits of refineries that focus on refining dirty oil will be under pressure, and this is especially true for companies in Saudi Arabia. Below is the matrix of oil grades in two ways – by density and sulfur content:

Also, for ships that are not going to switch to clean fuel, it is possible to use special installations that reduce the content of harmful substances in emissions.

The market is also under pressure due to discouraging reports from the EIA, which sees no end in sight to the potential for growth in US oil production. According to the latest forecasts, production in seven major fields will grow by 49K in August to a record 8.55 million barrels per day. The total production in the United States now exceeds 12 million barrels and is expected to rise further.

On Monday, the volume of suspended capacity in the Gulf of Mexico was 1.3 M barrels per day. On a selected day from Sunday to Monday, producers restored production to 80K barrels per day however, the recovery rate is expected to increase. Capacity utilization on some platforms reaches only 31%. Workers of more than 280 drilling platforms were evacuated but they are expected to return to their jobs in a few days after the storm leaves the region.

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